Irish Fintech Startup LEVERIS - CEO & Founder Conor Fennelly

Interview: Conor Fennelly of LEVERIS

In Ireland, Startup Stories by Adam

Conor Fennelly is Founder and CEO of LEVERIS, an Irish Fintech Startup and digital banking platform.

LEVERIS believes technology can revolutionise banking by simplifying complex financial services, for both banks and their clients. It does this with a platform that is entirely software-defined, based in the cloud and completely independent of legacy core banking technology.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the company is experiencing a period of unprecedented growth, as millions of businesses and consumers do their banking by purely digital means.

SNE: Hi Conor! In a nutshell, what is LEVERIS and what does it do?

Conor: LEVERIS is a digital banking and lending platform company. Our technology dramatically reduces the cost, complexity, and time it takes banks and non-banks to launch agile, future-proofed digital banks at scale.

As our tagline suggests, we imagine better banking.

SNE: Banks, by their nature, are very conservative and thus many have failed to evolve digitally. What does this mean for the world’s 40,000 banks and their clients?

Conor: Most banks are still operating in what we call a legacy environment and, as a result, their customers are missing out on great customer experience. Not only that, a failure to evolve digitally means that these organisations face higher IT costs and have to navigate extremely complex processes. In short, banks are stuck and need to innovate.

LEVERIS was founded with the aim to change all that and enable these banks to break free from their shackles. We want to help them to become agile, able to respond to market changes as they happen, and provide them with a single view of the customer. That means taking a customer-centric approach to banking rather than product-centric.

We also want to help them save on costs. For example, a traditional bank’s operating cost-to-income ratio is around 70 percent. By applying technologies considered standard in other industries today, we estimate that we can help them achieve cost-to-income ratios of 25-35 percent, which, of course, is the most effective way to increase margin.

Banks are also sitting on an incredibly valuable and powerful asset: data. We can help them unlock that potential with our platform’s state-of-the-art data warehouse.

SNE: What impact has COVID-19 had on the shift towards digitisation?

Conor: If there’s one thing that COVID-19 has taught the banking world it’s that its future is digital.

That’s not only down to a shift towards a more cashless society for consumers. It’s also how the technology enables financial services to launch new retail products at speed, revise products on the fly, and target customers with individual accuracy.

During COVID-19, our technology has helped loan servicers hit pause on mortgage payments for struggling borrowers. You’d think these are simple tasks in financial services, however, when you are operating in a product-driven environment, making changes on your system is complex and time-consuming. In unprecedented circumstances and dealing in large numbers, as with COVID-19, legacy systems fall short.

SNE: LEVERIS has just gone live in The Netherlands, enabling the largest independent loan servicer in Europe to enter the Dutch market. How big of a landmark moment is this for you?

Conor: The deployment of our technology for Link Group is a significant milestone for LEVERIS because it represents a really strong endorsement of our platform.

When you’ve been busy developing technology in the background for a number of years, you’re always eager to see it come to life and deliver on its promise. That’s what our launch in the Netherlands does.

We’ve done what we said we would. We have built the full-stack – an end-to-end, standalone, core banking, and lending solution and now we’re showing financial services how it can shape the future of banking.

The deployment is a blueprint for what we can deliver in other markets. Now, we plan to develop more partnerships in the months ahead with organisations keen to improve the way they deliver user experiences in banking for their customers and employees.

SNE: You’ve just announced plans to raise €100m in the coming months. When it comes to funding and Irish Fintech Startups, what advice would you give?

Conor: Compared to the infrastructure and investment culture in the US, it is still difficult and time-consuming to raise funds in Ireland and in Europe in general. The challenge with fundraising is that it can take senior management out of the operational and strategic side of the business for extended periods, which isn’t ideal.

My advice for Irish Fintech Startups when it comes to fundraising is to focus heavily on the problem that you are solving. Always lead with this when articulating your value proposition, before showcasing your technology. This way, your chances of securing a VC’s attention are much higher.

SNE: Your company has 200 employees in Dublin, Brno, Minsk, and Prague. What moved you to set up offices in these particular cities and countries?

Conor: Ireland is a hotbed for innovation so setting up our headquarters in Dublin made perfect sense. There are some great Irish Fintech Startups with an excellent standard and culture of software development. There are also some brilliant state supports such as those offered by Enterprise Ireland. The agency has opened many doors for us in strategic locations.

However, as Ireland is a base for many large American corporations and tech companies, the cost of talent can be quite high.  We have around 200 employees, but only around 50 are in Ireland. The rest are located in Brno, Minsk, and Prague, where it’s much more cost-effective to run the development side of the business. There’s great access to talent in those geographies and it has enabled us to develop an incredibly strong team across four locations.